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The Daily Wildcat

The Daily Wildcat


OPINION: Five restaurants that capture the culinary spirit of Tucson

Eat like a native in Tucson’s vibrant City of Gastronomy
Danielle Main
The front view of American Eats Co. Restaurant, an eatery which showcases a diverse set of dishes off Second Street and Fourth Avenue.

If you’re new to Tucson or you haven’t had the chance to wander beyond the national chains and offerings in the University of Arizona’s Student Union Memorial Center, we found five Tucson restaurants that define our unique City of Gastronomy designation.

These are restaurants that have been around for years and together they can help define the culinary spirit and tastes of Tucson.

5.) Kingfisher Bar & Grill

2564 E. Grant Road,; 520-323-7739

Kingfisher Bar & Grill has been a name many locals have known for about 30 years. 

After years of working hard to earn [a] degree, going out to have a fantastic meal and drinks, celebrating the achievement of graduating with family and friends is a great way to end the journey and make some wonderful memories in the process,” owner Jacki Kuder said. 

Consistently fresh seafood paired with a large selection of wine makes for a perfect night out, especially if your parents have tagged along to help you move in. It’s a great spot for date night or family dinner.

“Kingfisher Bar & Grill specializes in fresh seafood — we have several varieties daily of fresh oysters, shucked to order, and a varied assortment of seafood on our menu, as well as non-seafood items,” Kuder said.

4.) El Charro Café

Three locations including the flagship at 311 N. Court Ave. downtown,; 520-622-1922

El Charro Café is the oldest continually operating Mexican restaurant in the United States. The family-owned restaurant has been around since 1922 and is a household name in the city of Tucson. 

El Charro specializes in classic Mexican food, as well as being known as the first location to ever create the famous Chimichanga. It also has roof-dried carne seca.

El Charro has been featured in Forbes Magazine, several Food Network shows and other newspapers and magazines nationwide. Gourmet Magazine listed the restaurant as “One of America’s 21 Most Legendary Restaurants.”

“Our family is Tucson’s oldest Wildcat dining tradition! The Si Charro family of restaurants has been feeding hungry Wildcat families since 1922, with over 100 years of experience and memories behind us,” President of Flores Concepts & Si Charro Restaurants Ray Flores said.

3.) Empire Pizza

 137 E. Congress St., 520-882-7499

Empire Pizza has been serving the locals of Tucson since 2009. Their late-night hours paired with delicious pizza served by the slice is a match made in heaven. Ask any student around campus and they will know exactly what restaurant you are describing.

At Empire Pizza people can either buy whole pizzas or pizza by the slice. They also sell wings, tiramisu and cannolis.

The pizza stems all the way from traditional cheese or pepperoni to their “Elote” pizza that is topped with roasted corn, cotija cheese blend, fresh cilantro and chipotle mayo.

They also serve locally brewed beer with many of them on tap for your pleasure.

2.) Reilly Craft Pizza & Drink

101 E. Pennington St.,; 520-882-5550

Located downtown, Reilly Craft Pizza & Drink has been serving modern takes on Italian food through their scratch kitchen helmed by chef-owner Tyler Fenton. Everything is fresh and made by hand daily including pizza, pasta, salads, appetizers and desserts. Their menu offers patrons the ability to share or get their own meal with ease.

On top of their incredible food options, there are different locations within the restaurant guests can dine, including outdoor seating for a more casual experience, or for larger groups, their Beer Garden has more than 20 beers on tap and a variety of wine. The full menu is still available to those who want to enjoy the beautiful Arizona weather.

Located beneath the restaurant, Tough Luck Club offers guests the ability to relax and finish off the night with a cocktail.

“You have the ability to create the best experience for you,” Courtney Fenton, director of operations said. Fenton explained that the family is also adding a rooftop bar option for guests.

Fun fact about Reilly: it’s located in a former funeral home. The Fentons siblings Tyler, Courtney and Zach kept the funeral home’s name when they renovated the building, using a lot of the existing materials back in 2012.

1.) Tumerico

2526 E. Sixth St.,; 520-240-6947

Tumerico is an establishment that has garnered a reputation that is indisputably incredible.

At Tumerico, they specialize in vegan Latin-inspired food, using local ingredients and produce. The menu changes with different specials daily that can be found on their chalkboard.

Guests can expect to find items such as traditional, delicious jackfruit tacos, vegan tamales, mole bowls and enchiladas.

The idea of a vegan restaurant can turn some people away, but Tumerico is an absolute exception to this. Chef and owner Wendy Garcia has been featured in article after article while winning awards such as Yelp’s ‘Top 100 Places to Eat in the Southwest.’

Garcia also has a smaller version of Tumerico called Tumerico on 4th St. at 402 E. Fourth Ave.

*El Inde Arizona is a news service of the University of Arizona School of Journalism.

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